press photo of Kelly Mickwee
Jeremy Sexton

Rooted in Country: Kelley Mickwee on Linda Ronstadt's 'Heart Like a Wheel'


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Singer-songwriter Kelley Mickwee, a member of the Americana group The Trishas and Kevin Russell's Shinyribs' Shiny Soul Sisters in addition to her acclaimed solo career, has long been celebrated as an artist with a collaborative spirit, known for lifting up fellow singer-songwriters through onstage comradery and lending her singular voice in both writers rooms and recording studios.

When reflecting on the album that had the most profound impact on her, Mickwee points to another genre-spanning artist known for her spirit of collaboration: Linda Ronstadt.

Below, Mickwee, who recently released the stunning love song"Gold Standard," shares how Ronstadt's timeless 1974 album Heart Like a Wheel influenced her as an artist.

"When I think about an album that not only influenced me but also influenced the genre that is now considered Americana, I don't think there is a more quintessential choice than Linda Rondstadt's Heart Like A Wheel.  There are countless performers/singers/songwriters that have had a huge impact on me musically over the years, but there are only a few I truly aspire to emulate in style and in career -- Linda Ronstadt is one of those few, and this album, released in 1974, is one that I go back to when I need a reminder of what kind of music and records I want to make.

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Heart Like A Wheel is such a rich and warm album, and really showcases the incredible vocal range and varying styles Linda can perform so effortlessly. What Peter Asher did musically, touching on so many genres of music all at once from country to rock to pop to soul, was met with its perfect match: Linda Rondstadt's voice. And the songs. The songs! As the story goes, Jerry Jeff Walker sang a bit of the title track to Linda in New York City years prior and she fell in love with the song right then and there and carried it around with her until the time was right to record it. From there, she chose songs that clearly show us why she is the master of interpretation. That is probably my most favorite thing about her and about this record. For example, her cover of Little Feat's 'Willin''' seems like it was how the song was meant to be sung and recorded, as much as I love Lowell George's version, it doesn't even compare to the emotions she evokes in her version.

And speaking of emotions, this record takes me on an emotional journey that only Linda can navigate. The perfect intersection of vocals, lyrics, melody, performance and musicianship. And oh, the band! Peter and Linda called on the finest of the fine at the time to make their masterpiece: members of the Eagles, Andrew Gold, Russ Kunkel, David Lindley, Emory Gordy and Emmylou Harris, just to name a very few. In fact, it's the first time we get a glimpse into what Emmy and Linda sound like together, eventually leading to The Trio album with Dolly, another album I could have easily chosen. 

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More about the songs, though. She comes right out of the gate with a banger, getting right to the chorus in under 30 seconds on what would eventually become a number 1 hit for her, 'You're No Good.' Then totally shifts gears to a few ballads like JD Souther's 'Faithless Love,' my personal favorite off the album. She covers a Flying Burrito Brothers song written by Dan Penn and Chips Moman, a Buddy Holly tune, an Everly Brothers staple, a Hank Williams classic AND she rounds it all out with 'You Can Close Your Eyes' by James Taylor.  Now, that's Americana -- as Jim Lauderdale would say. In my humble opinion, there is no other female artist like Linda Ronstadt in American music history and this album is the proof." 

 

READ MORE: Rooted in Country: William Clark Green on Garth Brooks' 'Rodeo'

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